Start Me Up Cup

State Bank


State Bank and Carmel Education Foundation Partner for the 2nd annual Carmel High School “Start Me Up Cup” Event on February 29, 2024 - 

Carmel High School sophomore Franklin Vrtis was awarded $2000 to further his entrepreneurial project!


“State Bank teamed up with the Carmel Education Foundation to launch the Start Me Up Cup because of the entrepreneurial aspects of this student-focused contest,” said Andy Pinegar, Hamilton County Market President for State Bank, “We understand successful business owners have that entrepreneurial spirit and we want to help develop the next generation of business leaders.” 

“We hope to encourage these young students to learn the basics of a business plan, how to structure a company and how to make their company grow,” said Pinegar.  “From the start, this Shark Tank experience has been a great learning tool for these students and it has been great for us as well – We have new faith in the next generation as we share in their ambitious goal of starting a company and watching it grow.”

CCS Schools

The CHS Student Entrepreneurship Club and CHS business teacher, Josh Shelton, worked with CEF to market the opportunity and to guide applicants in the preparation of their presentation. Entrepreneurship club leaders reviewed the initial 11 entrants who submitted a video application and a business plan, to select the five individuals/groups who would pitch their idea for the potential to win a $2,000 investment from State Bank.

The finalists and their ideas were Rebecca Lee: RePLASTICS: A Creative Spin on the Plastics Crisis; Grace Larkey, Siri Byrisetty, and Kent Fujita: InsightUp App; Franklin Vrtis: Go Fun Yourself; Athul Ramkumar and Sid Songrikar: Healthify.AI; and Arjun Sunil: Slow Eater Pet Feeder.  

Each individual or team had 15 minutes for their live pitch and to answer questions from the panel of judges, otherwise known as “sharks''. Panelists included Jim Badger, VP of Marketing, State Bank; David Glenn, President, Coasterstone; Shaun Goodyear, Founder/Owner, Indy Facets; Lyndsey Brown, Owner/Publisher, Carmel Magazine; and Kimberly Hansen, COO, Old Town Companies. The judges were all impressed with the caliber of presentations and range of ideas presented. Though it was a difficult decision, Franklin Vrtis had the winning idea focused on creating customized games. The judges felt that his model was scaleable and that the investment of $2,000 would be instrumental in propelling his business forward.

State Bank

Franklin was awarded $2,000 by State Bank team members Andy Pinegar, Megan Melvin, Dianne Stennett, and Jim Badger.

SMUC Finalists

Start Me Up Cup Entrepreneurs:  Athul Ramkumar, Sid Songrika, Siri Byrisetty, Grace Larkey, Kent Fujita, Arjun Sunil, Rebecca Lee, and Franklin Vrtis

Franklin Vrtis

Franklin Vrtis Making His Pitch

Vrtis was thrilled to emerge as the winner, stating, "My SMUC entry was Go Fun Yourself, a card game business that creates personalized card games about a specific individual!  I joined the competition to jump start my business's success and learn more about clever business strategies.  I hope that with the prize money, I can invest in improved ease of access and increased publicity through online advertisements.  I'm so glad SMUC has given me that chance and I'm even more excited to get it started!"  Vrtis has successfully created several games already including the Roundabout Game featured in several Carmel area stores. 


Franklin with parents Kelly & Matt Vrtis

Vrtis Parents
Jenn Penix

Jennifer Penix, Executive Director of CEF, plans to host the Start Me Up Cup in the high school auditorium in 2025, with students in business classes as part of the audience. As a parent of young entrepreneurs, she has seen firsthand the positive impact that comes from thinking through all aspects of a concept, as well as navigating challenges any business will inevitably face.  Penix says she “is grateful to work with engaged community members who believe in providing opportunities for students where they can not only learn, but dream.  The foundation’s mission is to support Carmel students in achievement and lifelong learning and the Start Me Up Cup is a perfect example of putting our mission to work.”